The integrated solid waste management facility proposed at Kuthambakkam near Poonamallee will pose threat to groundwater and also result in pollution of the Chembarambakkam lake, said speakers at a seminar here on Monday.

At the seminar on ‘People's participation in urban environmental issues', organised jointly by the Humanities and Social Sciences Department of IIT-Madras, Catalyst Trust and the Consumer Association of India, experts from different fields said the authorities should reconsider their decision on the facility and introduce long-term solutions such as waste reduction.

Chembarambakkam lake is one of the four reservoirs supplying drinking water to the city, and the proposed site is a catchment area of the lake.

Almitra H. Patel, member of Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management, said source segregation at household level is the key to reduce waste. Bio-mining, where the volume of garbage is reduced by spraying bio-culture and constantly tossing it, must be executed in the SWM facilities around the city. Ms. Patel said the Suryapet model in Andhra Pradesh should be an example that could be emulated by the local bodies such as Ambattur and Maduravoyal. “Suryapet achieved dustbin-free zero garbage status by vermi-composting and dry waste sorting on just half an acre land. No land filling was needed as inert waste was used for road widening. In Kochi, 200 apartments use bio-bins to minimise waste by decentralised composting.”

She said the groundwater level in Kuthambakkam was less than 2 metre and there may be chances of seepage of leachate, resulting in water pollution.

R. Elango, former president of Kuthambakkam Panchayat said besides depriving the villagers, dependent on agriculture, of their livelihood, the future of Chembarambakkam lake will become worrisome. “The site has not been inspected by the officials concerned except for a few Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board engineers,” he said.

In their presentation, Ligy Philip and B. S. Murty of the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-M, said the soil condition on the site, wetlands in the vicinity and groundwater level must be taken into account while selecting a landfill site.

R. Desikan of Consumer Association of India said public hearings are turning sham as many residents do not get opportunity to voice their views. M. G. Devasahayam of SUSTAIN said lack of people's involvement is the main handicap in the country. Nityanand Jayaraman, environment activist, said the problem and solution of garbage disposal is discriminatory. T.K.Ramkumar, advocate, explained the legal aspects of decision making on environmental issues. Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, Senior Deputy Editor, The Hindu, moderated one of the panel discussions.

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